Buy American: A Short-Sighted Policy In An Era Of Expanding Free Trade

Sunday, October 4, 2009 - 00:00

The following is an excerpt from an op-ed by Daniel Sullivan, Canada's Consul General in New York.

More than 7 million U.S. jobs are supported by trade with Canada. Close to $2 million worth of goods and services cross the border every minute of every day, with total Canada-US merchandise trade topping $557 billion in 2008. Canada buys four times more from the U.S. than China does, in fact, more than the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, and China combined .

In June, with those remarkable statistics in mind, Canada's Deputy Ambassador to the United States joined Canadian Consuls General from across the U.S. in bringing an important message to the U.S. Congress: our two economies are profoundly integrated; we are partners and, as partners, we must work together to effect economic recovery in North America. The explicit and implicit corollary to that message is that protectionist measures - such as the "Buy American" provisions that were included in the U.S. economic stimulus package - have no place in that relationship.

Mindful of the deep interconnectedness of the American and Canadian economies, Canada has consciously avoided discriminatory trade measures that would keep U.S. suppliers out of the Canadian market. By contrast, the discriminatory "Buy American" provisions included in the U.S. stimulus package are keeping long-established Canadian suppliers out of the New York market and affecting jobs on both sides of the border. These provisions not only work against the spirit of our larger trading relationship - a relationship that is unique in history - but they simply don't work. Protectionist policies in the '30s triggered a retaliatory cycle that deepened the Great Depression, and they would be even more detrimental now, given the increased integration of our two economies since those days.